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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

TEPCO halts the last one

March 27, 2012
All 17 of TEPCO's N-reactors now halted



All 17 of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s nuclear reactors are now suspended after TEPCO halted its last operating reactor around midnight Sunday at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

TEPCO suspended operations of the 1.35 million-kilowatt No. 6 reactor at the power plant at around midnight Sunday for a regular checkup. Of the 54 commercial nuclear reactors in the nation, the No. 3 reactor of Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari nuclear power plant is the only one still operating.

"We expect that we can ensure a steady supply of electricity for the time being, but we would like to request people's cooperation in saving electricity whenever possible," TEPCO President Toshio Nishizawa said Sunday.

It is the first time in about nine years that TEPCO has shut down all its reactors.

The last time all TEPCO's reactors were shut down was from April to May in 2003, after a scandal over falsified safety-inspection reports.

TEPCO's 17 nuclear reactors have a combined output capacity of 17.3 million kilowatts, which accounted for one-fourth of its total electrical power supply of 65 million kilowatts as of the end of March last year.

TEPCO is ready to take measures to secure a stable supply of electricity ahead of summer, when demand for air conditioning normally surges.

The utility plans to secure 57 million kilowatts of energy without nuclear power plants by installing gas turbines for thermal power generation as emergency measures. If this summer's maximum demand for power is the same as last year, a shortage of electrical power can be avoided. In TEPCO's service area, demand for power peaked at 49.22 million kilowatts last summer.

The government also imposed a restriction on power usage in TEPCO's service areas last year, requiring heavy users of electricity to reduce their power consumption by 15 percent from the peak of the summer in 2010. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano has said the government does not plan to impose the same restrictions this year, and will also refrain from conducting rotating blackouts this summer.

However, electricity demand could surge due to a heat wave, or operation of thermal power plants--which are not designed to run continuously for a long period of time--could be halted due to troubles.

TEPCO's fuel expense has risen sharply, resulting from increased thermal power generation as a replacement for nuclear power.

The utility has said it will raise electricity charges for large-lot users such as buildings and factories by an average of 17 percent starting in April, and by about 10 percent for general households starting in July.

According to its plan, TEPCO plans to limit electricity rate hikes to three years based on the assumption that it can restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in fiscal 2013.



However, if nuclear reactors continue to be suspended, the price increase will likely continue

To restart operations, nuclear power plants need to pass stress tests.

TEPCO has already submitted to the government the first-phase assessment of stress tests on the No. 1 and No. 7 reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Meanwhile, the local government is taking a cautious approach to restarting nuclear operations.

"As long as the root cause of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant remains unclear, we can't judge what is safe," Niigata Gov. Hirohiko Izumida said.

From the late 1980s through the 1990s, TEPCO falsified reports relating to cracks detected at the Fukushima No. 1, No. 2 and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants. After the false records were found in August 2002, TEPCO shut down all its reactors temporarily in 2003 to inspect its nuclear power plants.

March 26, 2012

Countdown to shutdown of all nuclear plants



All Japan's nuclear reactors face a possible shutdown if none are allowed to resume operations before the last working reactor in northern Japan, is turned off in May.

At the time of the Fukushima nuclear accident last March, 37 out of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors were operating.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has now received the results of stress tests of 16 reactors checked since last October. The tests are designed to see how well the reactors can withstand earthquakes and tsunami.

Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission on Friday endorsed the test results of 2 reactors at the Ohi plant on the Japan Sea coast.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and 3 Cabinet members in charge of nuclear issues will decide soon whether the government can obtain local agreement and restart the 2 reactors.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency also finished assessing another reactor in Ehime Prefecture, western Japan.

The Nuclear Safety Commission says a second stage of stress tests are needed that takes into account whether reactors are prepared for severe accidents such as a nuclear meltdown.

Local municipalities such as Fukui Prefecture are demanding the government show a temporary safety guideline that reflects lessons from the accident of the Fukushima plant.

The government was planning to set up a new nuclear safety agency in April to unify supervision of nuclear power generation. But, the negotiation between the ruling and the opposition parties is deadlocked.

The report from the government's investigative panel probing the Fukushima accident is expected to be released in July. Some experts say the inspection of the accident is not enough at the present stage.

The main focus of the issue is how the government will judge the safety of a nuclear plant and how it can convince the local governments.

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